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E&E News: Inhofe questions EPA science behind new standards
July 6, 2011

Posted by Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov

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E&E News 

Inhofe questions EPA science behind new standards

Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter

July 6, 2011

Link to Letter 

The top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is seeking to use a recent National Academy of Sciences review of formaldehyde to raise questions about U.S. EPA's scientific basis for new air quality standards due out this summer.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) linked NAS criticisms of the scientific methodologies used by EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) in evaluating formaldehyde to the process the agency is using to update the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) this month.

"The same scientific defects noted in the formaldehyde assessment are also present in EPA's evaluations of the science used to establish and revise [NAAQS], including the ongoing reconsideration of the ozone standard," wrote Inhofe, along with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

In April, NAS issued a long-awaited review of EPA's draft formaldehyde assessment. NAS questioned some of EPA's assertions about whether formaldehyde is a carcinogen, although it said EPA supported its conclusion that formaldehyde causes cancer in the nose and throat. In particular, however, the report criticized the methodologies by which EPA prepared the assessment (Greenwire, April 8).

Inhofe and Vitter claimed in their letter that EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment within the Office of Research and Development provides the scientific footing for both IRIS and NAAQS assessments.

"One should therefore expect that scientific defects observed in EPA's IRIS program would be observed in EPA's NAAQS program," they wrote.

Many Republicans and some Democrats have urged EPA to put off issuing the revised air quality standards this month. Agency scientists have said recent data suggests a stronger link between ozone air conditions and breathing problems, heart attacks and death. Last year, the Obama administration proposed stricter standards but has yet to formally issue a rule.

The new standards, which are expected to be between 60 and 70 parts per billion for ground-level ozone, would likely force companies to spend significant amounts of money to cut down on their emissions. EPA estimated the proposal would cost $19 million to $90 million by 2020, much of which would fall on businesses.

In June, about 100 lawmakers sent EPA an letter urging the agency to put off issuing the new standards until 2013 (E&ENews PM, June 23).

Inhofe and Vitter argue in their 10-page letter that EPA does not adequately explain which scientific studies it chooses to include in its assessments and which it opts to disregard.

"In assessing the evidence on the health effects of ozone," they wrote, "EPA has discounted or ignored studies reporting no significant association between current levels of ozone and asthma exacerbation."

An EPA spokesman said the agency is reviewing the letter.

The senators also criticize EPA for inadequately explaining how it weighs multiple studies that come to different conclusions in its assessments.

"EPA has not only discounted equal numbers of studies showing no association, but has at times discounted multiple no-effect studies to rely instead on single studies showing an effect," the senators wrote, referring to air quality standards.

Click here to read Inhofe and Vitter's letter to EPA.

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